Time goes by like pouring rain: Homer Bailey does just enough each summer to keep the Reds believing, and 2010 was no different. Bailey was only 4-3 in 19 starts with a 4.46 ERA, but he was 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA over the second half of the season. Hope is addictive, and that’s how the Reds approach Bailey. Maybe this year. Bailey will be 25 this May, and he’s 16-16 with a 5.09 ERA in his first 59 starts. It’s one thing to think the glass is half full, quite another when you realize it’s because the ice has melted.
I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door: The Reds have never quite gotten around to replacing catcher Johnny Bench, which wouldn’t matter so much if he hadn’t been retired for the last 27 years. Here’s all you need to know about the Reds’ catchers since: Their two longest-tenured have been Joe Oliver and Jason LaRue, and if you’re not impressed, know they were better than the alternatives — Dan Bilardello, Ed Taubensee or Jeff Reed. Ramon Hernandez held down the position capably in 2010, but he might not have to much longer. Devin Mesoraco, the Reds’ No. 1 pick in 2007, didn’t hit from 2007-09, but he did last summer in a big way — 26 home runs, a .587 slugging percentage and a climb from Class A to AAA. He regressed a bit at Louisville, so he’ll probably get a chance to repeat there. He may not be Johnny Bench, but he’ll be closer than almost any of the Reds catchers since.
What is this man doing here? It’s hard to believe the Reds would have outfielder Jeremy Hermida in camp (let alone pitcher Dontrelle Willis), if only to keep him away from Jay Bruce. Bruce is now where Hermida was in 2007; at 23, Hermida hit .296 with an .870 OPS. (Bruce is 23, hit .281 with an .846 OPS last year). Since then, Hermida hasn’t come within 100 points of 2007 and is now working on his fourth team. Hermida is 27 and should be having his best years. If he does, it’ll probably be in AAA.
Outlook: The Reds beat the Cardinals last season in the standings, even if they couldn’t do it very convincingly on the field, losing 12 of 17 to the NL Central runners-up. But given this week’s injury news about Adam Wainwright, the Reds’ focus may turn to Milwaukee.
There’s nothing terribly imposing about this year’s Reds — their starting rotation hinges on oft-injured Edinson Volquez and 17-start veteran Travis Wood; Paul Janish may be the shortstop, Francisco Cordero their closer and Drew Stubbs their centerfielder.
The Reds have a great deal riding on MVP Joey Votto, Bruce, Scott Rolen’s back and Aroldis Chapman’s ability to replace Arthur Rhodes. And Johnny Cueto’s or Bailey’s chance to blossom.
It doesn’t seem like the Reds are improved; in fact, quite the opposite. They still seem like more a team symbolized by Bronson Arroyo — steady, plodding and headed to 88 wins tops. Whether they win the division may be up to their opponents more than the Reds.
Remember when: This is the 50th anniversary of the Reds’ 1961 pennant winners, managed by Fred Hutchinson. Three years later, Hutchinson was dead, a victim of cancer at 45.
His brother, Dr. Bill Hutchinson, established a cancer research center in memory of Fred in Seattle, where the family was rooted. When Boston pitcher Jon Lester, also a native of the Pacific Northwest, was stricken with cancer in 2006, he chose to receive treatment at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
In 2008, his cancer in remission and again a successful pitcher, Lester received the Hutch Award, given each year to the player who exemplifies Fred’s courage (Braves pitcher Tim Hudson was the 2010 winner).
The story of the Hutchinson brothers: